Targets Per Route Run: Mining for Fantasy Football Gold in 2022
Every year, it seems there are as many surprises as stalwarts in the top-24 wide receivers. In recent history, we’ve seen the likes of Justin Jefferson and Ja’Marr Chase force us to recalibrate our expectations for first-year players. What statistics should we be looking at to help us spot potential values and breakouts, and where can spot warning signs before the pitfalls come?
In 2021, our editor Kyle Borgognoni wrote a fantastic primer for evaluating the percentage of routes targeted for players. Or, as we’re referring to it these days, targets per route run (TPRR). I’d highly recommend reading his article first to understand the methodology behind the analysis.
Simply, we can find TPRR by dividing the number of targets in a given period by the number of routes run in the same period. Then we take the result and express it as a percentage. Evaluating targets per route run allows us to mitigate the effects of missed games, quarterback play, team schemes, etc. As a bonus, it can also help identify players who are earning more playing time and might be worth adding to your roster before everyone else does.
This season, we’re breaking down targets per route run in a new weekly series. It is not the end-all-be-all stat, but TPRR does provide simple, actionable intel that you can factor into your waiver claims, trades, or start-sit decisions. In this series, you’ll see some familiar names every week. We’ll highlight a few players from the list; some good, some bad. The goal is to give you that extra bit of information to make the best possible decisions for your roster.
Before we look forward, we look back. I went back through the last ten years to dig deeper into the correlation between fantasy finish and TPRR. For those less familiar, correlation is a statistical measure of the linear relationship between two numbers or sets of numbers. In other words, it measures how two sets of numbers change with each other, expressed as a number between 0.1 and 1.0. Anything greater than 0.5 is considered a strong positive correlation. In 2021, the correlation between TPRR rank and fantasy finish was 0.51. In 2020, it was 0.53. Since 2012, the average correlation is even stronger at 0.59. At the very least, we can conclude that there’s a consistently positive relationship between a player’s fantasy finish and targets per route run.
Let’s take a look at 2021’s top players in this list. Note: to eliminate insignificant data, the minimum target threshold is set at 60 targets. A TPPR of at least 20% is also important to be significant for fantasy. Since 2006, 92% of wide receivers in the top 12 have finished with a TPRR of 20% or greater.
Many of the names on this list won’t surprise you. Cooper Kupp, Justin Jefferson, and Davante Adams are going to show up on any WR “best of” list. Antonio Brown tops the list, which may seem surprising given how his season ended in Tampa Bay. However, Antonio Brown has finished with a TPRR above 20% every season of his career, and he was a favorite sleeper pick for the Fantasy Footballers for this very reason.
Jarvis Landry, Elijah Moore, Rondale Moore, and Braxton Berrios didn’t finish anywhere close to the Top 24 in 2021 for various reasons, but we’ll see if there’s a past to success for any of them down below.
*Rookies are a bit of a different ballgame and are worthy of a separate deep dive. I’ll mention that Kadarius Toney didn’t hit the 60 target threshold but posted an elite 27% TPRR in the games he played. His ability to stay on the field is the major concern, but he’s already flashed the potential to become a mainstay on this list.
Gems for 2022
Be sure to check back in on the TPRR report each week, and use it as a map to dig a little deeper into the players that make the list. Go beyond the raw totals in your fantasy apps and gain that extra edge over your league mates. But before we wrap up, let’s dive into some of the 20+ percent players from 2021 and see if we can find any gold in those hills.
Elijah Moore–There’s a lot of uncertainty around the Jets’ offense. Garrett Wilson, Corey Davis, and fellow 20 percent-er Braxton Barrios are all on the roster. When healthy, though, Elijah Moore has shown he has the talent to demand the ball. He’s the WR1 on this offense and should be peppered with targets.
Rondale Moore–He was inconsistent as a rookie, but Rondale Moore was targeted at a high rate (24.2%), especially for a rookie. With the Cardinals’ offense lacking many alternatives, Moore should be thrust into more action as the primary slot receiver. If he can produce at the same rate as his rookie year, he could be one of the values of the draft.
Jarvis Landry–One of the big target monsters of the last seven years, Landry has had a rough couple of seasons. Now he finds himself on a prove-it deal in a suddenly-loaded receiver room in New Orleans. Before things went south in 2020, Landry finished in the Top 20 five years in a row. If Michael Thomas doesn’t return to form or Chris Olave starts slow, there’s an opportunity for Landry to step into a role. He has to prove he’s still got it before he’s worth a roster spot, but Landry is exactly the type of player that could seemingly come out of nowhere for fantasy.
Braxton Berrios–Another Jet? Just hear me out. Berrios gets after it. He was the WR9 for a three-game stretch when Elijah Moore went down, and he’s one of those guys that just gets targets. I could totally see Joe Flacco looking for Berrios over the middle, couldn’t you? The Jets have too many receivers in front of Berrios right now, but I’m running, RUNNING, to the waiver wire if injuries start piling up in Jersey.
Julio Jones–2021 was a year to forget for Julio. The big question is whether he can still play and stay healthy. As the latest all-timer to join Tom Brady in Tampa Bay, Jones has the opportunity for an Antonio Brown-esque season in 2022. Jones has posted TPRR numbers above 20% every year except in 2021 and his rookie season.